Teens bring challenge against Child and Family Agency

Judgement has been reserved at the High Court in an action over the policy of the Child and Family Agency in relation to the placement of at-risk children in special care units.

The actions, which have been opposed by the Child and Family Agency (CFA) have been brought on behalf of two teenage boys, who the court heard have been living chaotic lifestyles resulting in their lives, health and safety being put at risk.

The teens were deemed several weeks ago by the CFA's National Special Care Referrals Committee to be at immediate risk, and require to be placed in special care units.

Despite meeting the criteria it is claimed the CFA deliberately delay and postpone indefinitely making applications before the Courts for orders allowing it place the at-risk child at a secure special care unit.

Due to the CFA's policy, the two teens remain at large and at risk.

Their lawyers say the CFA should not delay making applications for special care orders and claims that the CFA policy is in breach of its obligations to protect children.

In their proceedings, the two teens, seek orders quashing the CFA decisions to defer its duty to comply with provisions of the 1991 Child Care in respect of the teens pending placement in special care facilities becoming available for them.

The teens also seek various declarations including the CFA has failed to protect and vindicate the teen's rights by failing to provide them with special care placements and appropriate educational and therapeutic supports.

They further seek a declaration that the CFA policy of delaying a recommendation being forwarded for determination until a placement is available breaches the Agency’s constitutional obligations, the children's rights and is unlawful.

The two separate judicial review actions, which were fast-tracked before Ms Justice Mary Faherty, have been opposed by the CFA.

Its counsel Conor Dignam SC said that the CFA's policy does not breach the teen's constitutional rights, and rejects claims it is in breach of any of its obligations.

Counsel said there are resource issues in the area of special care.

However these problems in regards to the special care placements could not be laid at the door of the CFA.

Counsel said that while resources had been put into the system the biggest difficulty was getting appropriately trained suitable staff to work at the special care units.

It was often the case that beds were available but could not be taken up due to staff shortages.

Counsel said that if the applicants are successful there was a danger that the CFA would not be able to comply with the orders made by the court which he said would be unworkable."

The granting of such orders counsel added could result in the court taking decisions about who should get priority for special care placements instead of the CFA.

Following the conclusion of submissions from all parties, Ms Justice Faherty reserved her decision.

The Judge said she would try and give her judgement as quickly as possible.

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